Genie Bouchard was in total control during her 6-0, 6-3 victory over Kiki Bertens in Margaret Court Arena on Wednesday night.
Another way to describe the match would probably be to say she completely outclassed the No. 72-ranked Dutchwoman.
Bouchard hung a bagel on Bertens in the opening set, needing just 23 minutes to wrap it up. Bertens, a big-boned woman, might have been expected to impose her game, but it was Bouchard who muscled her opponent all over the court. She finished the set with 10 winners and five unforced errors while Bertens managed only three winners and had 10 unforced errors.
I was seated beside a Dutch reporter and he asked me if Bouchard had any weaknesses. I really couldn’t think of any – good serve, great backhand and forehand and sound on her volleys. There might the tiniest question about her movement but I pointed out that she is incredibly alert and that makes up for any speed deficiency she might have.
He mentioned that he had viewed pictures of her in press conferences and had noticed just how wide open and penetrating her eyes were – in that regard he said she was like Novak Djokovic.
Bouchard led 5-1 in the final set before having a lapse in concentration, which she later declared was “unacceptable” in her post-match interview on court. Bertens got back to 5-3 but Bouchard served out the match to set up an appetizing third round encounter with No. 36-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.
Bertens said she was as displeased with her performance – a paltry seven winners to go with 18 unforced errors – as she was happy with her first-round victory over Daria Gavrilova. But she did admit that she had been impressed by Bouchard, especially by her power.
“I was happy with the way I was able to step in and control the points,” Bouchard said. “That’s how I want to play.”
It was a comfortable win on a day when Maria Sharapova had to save two match points in a perilous 7-5 in the third set victory over No. 150-ranked Alexandra Panova, a 25-year-old qualifier who had never beaten a player ranked higher than No. 32.
Bouchard didn’t see the match. “I was warming up and doing my things,” she explained.
About the likelihood of someone like Panova threatening world No. 2 Sharapova, Bouchard said, “we’re at a Grand Slam, every player can perform well. It’s just if they bring their game on that day. There are a lot of good players out there. This stuff happens all the time.”
Bouchard, known as one of the great sleepers on the tour, may not really have been properly awake because she said she slept for “12 or 13 hours” and woke up at 1 p.m., about the time the Sharapova – Panova match began.
Wednesday was her second match in a row as the opening evening act on 7,500-seat (ticketed) Margaret Court Arena, which has not been selling out quite the way tournament organizers had hoped.
Bouchard has quite a following in Australia, what with people remembering her semifinal at Melbourne Park a year ago and hearing, for the second year, the Genie Army do their thing – including one chant that goes, “shake, shake, shake – shake, shake, shake – shake your Bouchard, shake your Bouchard.”
They will no doubt be back in Margaret Court, or maybe even Rod Laver Arena, for the Garcia match.
The Frenchwoman has been on the radar since she played Maria Sharapova on Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros as a 17-year-old in 2011. She led 6-3, 4-1 before losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. It was such a precocious, impressive performance that Andy Murray tweeted at the time that she was going to be a future world No. 1.
She has not quite lived up to expectations, but is an athletic 21-year-old, just four months older than Bouchard.
She beat Bouchard 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in Acapulco last February, but that was when Bouchard was going through a lull after her Australian Open success, a Fed Cup tie in Montreal and a tiring trip to Doha and Dubai before returning to North America.
“It’s going to be super-tough,” Bouchard said about playing Garcia. “I know she’s an up-and-comer. She can have some big shots.”
Garcia, 5-foot-10 like Bouchard, is now coached by Nathalie Tauziat, one of Bouchard’s former coaches.
That will be a subplot of Friday’s match. “I travelled with Nathalie for two years,” Bouchard said, “and she has the experience of what I want for myself – she’s been No. 3 in the world and been in a Wimbledon final. She knows all the stuff about being on court and the pressure – and that helped me.
“But it won’t really bother me. I’m not playing against the coach, I’m playing against the player. I’m still friendly with Nathalie, so it’s all good.”
At the end of the match, the Margaret Court Arena announcer asked her to do a twirl to let the crowd have a good look at her new pink outfit. (Serena Williams had earlier performed the same maneuver in Margaret Court to show off her yellow dress.) “It was very unexpected,” Bouchard joked about the request. “I don’t know. An old guy asking you to twirl – it was funny.”
That’s how Bouchard looked doing her twirl.
Bouchard’s spin wasn’t bad but it can’t compare with probably the most famous twirl – actually a pirouette – in Canadian history performed by cheeky Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at Buckingham Palace in 1977 behind Queen Elizabeth as she walked away.
For anyone who may not have seen the photo – here it is.
SCHEDULE SHOCK FOR VASEK
Yours truly happened to be walking back with Vasek Pospisil after he won his doubles match at about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and informed him, not thinking he didn’t already know, that he was playing first match on at 11 a.m. on Thursday against Paolo Lorenzi of Italy.
Pospisil had played until about 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday night to beat Sam Querrey and was last match on Court 19 for the doubles on Wednesday. He certainly expected a later start, as did his coach Fredéric Fontang and Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau – especially after the late finish on Tuesday.
Fontang registered his displeasure with tournament officials.
Pospisil was clearly very upset when I gave him the news, saying, “that’s really surprising.” He added, with a certain resignation, “that’s the way it is I guess.”
He said he had been a little sore when he woke up on Wednesday and hoped he’d feel better on Thursday.
It’s quite mystifying that normal tournament protocol was not followed in this instance. The only good thing might be that a high of 33 C is expected tomorrow, meaning that at11 a.m. it will not be as hot as it will be later in the day.
Pospisil is slated for Court 13 at 11 a.m. (7 p.m. EDT in Canada).
Milos Raonic, with a 2-0 record against Donald Young, will play the 25-year-old American in the second match at night on Margaret Court Arena. It will follow the blockbuster women’s second-rounder between Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki.
DOUBLE DOUBLES ADVANCE
Two Canadians moved in to the second round of the Australian Open doubles on Wednesday – Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and her Polish partner Alicja Rosolska beat Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Zheng Sai Sai of China 6-4, 6-1 while Pospisil of Vancouver and Austrian Julian Knowle won a close contest 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-6(4) over Dominic Thiem of Austria and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.
“We played super solid,” Dabrowski said about her team’s win. “It’s not like we got behind or anything and had to make a big comeback. We just executed our strategy.”
In the second round, Dabrowski and Rosolska will take on second-seeded Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei and Sania Mirza of India.
“It will be a completely different match from today because they play with much more power,” Dabrowski said. “Both are incredibly successful doubles players.”
Dabrowski was very surprised that both Hsieh and Mirza had left behind very successful partnerships – Hsieh with Peng Shuai of China and Mirza with Black – to form a new partnership this year.
As for Pospisil, he and the veteran Knowle, 40, won a squeaker against the Austrian-German combo of Thiem and Struff.
It came down to a final set tiebreak for the match on Court 19, which is located on the east or less travelled side of Rod Laver Arena.
And, at the end, it actually was about one point at 4-all – Knowle poached and put away a volley to get the ultimately decisive mini-break. Struff, under duress, missed a volley on the first match point.
Pospisil, not playing with Jack Sock because his Wimbledon doubles partner has had hip surgery, and Knowle, who are seeded 13th, will face Benjamin Becker of Germany and Artem Sitak of New Zealand in the second round.
MELBOURNE POST CARD
Coopers is an Australian brewer that offers a variety of different beers, and puts its ads on the side of the ever-present Melbourne trams.